Surprising twist after dramatic rescue of kangaroo from 11m-deep mineshaft

Following a disastrous bushfire season, animal rescuer Manfred Zabinskas says saving a kangaroo mineshaft was incredibly special.

On Sunday, a gold prospector out near the central Victorian town of Vaughan heard a noise from a mineshaft. Peering down the 11-metre long hole, he was able to see a kangaroo at the bottom.

Five Freedoms Animal Rescue, where Mr Zabinskas works, said it was a “miracle” the kangaroo was found.

After the gold prospector alerted Wildlife Victoria and gave an accurate location, Mr Zabinskas was ready to jump down the shaft with the assistance of local rescuers Del and Bruce.

The top of the mineshaft at Vaughan, Victoria. A gold prospector heard noises coming from the shaft and investigated.
Manfred Zabinskas said there are thousands of mineshafts throughout the Vaughan area, which are extremely dangerous for wildlife. Source: Facebook/Five Freedoms Animal Rescue

Mr Zabinskas explained to Yahoo News Australia mineshaft rescues were always challenging and it was almost dark when the call came through.

“With the aid of bright torches, we could see the kangaroo laying down in a cramped position with little room to move,” Five Freedoms Animal Rescue wrote on Facebook.

“It was a shear drop of eleven metres (36 feet) with smooth sides.

“There was nothing to break the fall, and the kangaroo would almost certainly have suffered serious injury such as spinal damage, a fractured pelvis or broken legs.”

On the left is the kangaroo at the bottom of the mineshaft and on the right is Manfred tranquillising the kangaroo to allow for my safe approach and to reduce further stress and injury to the animal.
The kangaroo was found at the bottom of a mineshaft, so Five Freedoms Animal Rescue were called to tranquillise and retrieve it. Source: Facebook/Five Freedoms Animal Shelter

Mr Zabinskas said it was always important to sedate animals when rescuing them in situations like this as it adds more stress for the animal and could cause further injuries.

Using his tranquilliser gun, missing the first time, he then successfully sedated the kangaroo, but the rescuers thought the worst when it didn’t react, assuming it was a “bad sign”.

“Even after the dart hit the kangaroo didn’t attempt to stand up which was a worry and that told me she was either very weak or potentially injured,” Mr Zabinskas told Yahoo News Australia.

Manfred Zabinskas pictured venturing down the mineshaft to rescue the kangaroo.
Mr Zabinskas conducted the rescue, one of many rescues he has done in a mineshaft. Source: Facebook/Five Freedoms Animal Rescue

By the time Mr Zabinskas was ready to begin his descent into the shaft, the kangaroo was fast asleep. The rescuer managed to abseil down 11 metres.

“There was a hollow sound from under my feet and I realised that the floor of the shaft wasn’t solid. Several sticks had wedged across the shaft which were covered in dirt and debris, but it was hollow underneath,” he said.

“I had to be extra careful as a collapse of the floor would spell death for the kangaroo. At least I was safely suspended on my rope. There wasn’t enough room to bend over to place the kangaroo into my bag.”

Mr Zabinskas was reminded of his “age and lack of fitness” as he hauled himself back up the shaft and then lifted the kangaroo up after him.

A photo of Manfred Zabinskas, from Five Freedoms Animal Rescue, who collected the kangaroo from the bottom of the shaft and the other photo shows Manfred resting after the rescue with the mother kangaroo.
The rescuer went down the shaft, placed the kangaroo in a bag and then lifted himself out before hoisting the kangaroo to safety. Source: Facebook/Five Freedoms Animal Rescue

The first thing Mr Zabinskas did was check the kangaroo’s vitals, checking to see if she was dehydrated or had any respiratory problems and there didn’t seem to be anything seriously wrong upon first inspection.

It was then they discovered not only was the kangaroo a female, but also a mother with a small joey in her pouch. The mother and child were then taken to Mr Zabinskas’s home to allow for her to recuperate in his lounge room.

When at home they tried to sedate the mother again so they could fix her up with an IV, but she refused to sleep.

The question of whether she was injured or not was soon answered when the mother began to hop around Mr Zabinskas’s living room.

Manfred Zabinskas pictured with the kangaroo after the rescue.
Mr Zabinskas checked the mother kangaroo for injuries and all appeared to be fine. Source: Facebook/Five Freedoms Animal Rescue

“We quickly carried her down to our kangaroo enclosure where she would have more space to hop and less chance to destroy our furnishings,” the animal rescue’s Facebook post said.

“In the enclosure, she hopped lap after lap, and it was obvious that she was in excellent condition. That was the real miracle.”

Because the mother was not happy in the enclosure and she wasn’t injured, Mr Zabinskas and Bruce decided to take her back near the mine site.

She was taken back to within a few hundred metres of the mineshaft and once the mother awoke, she was happily grazing.

The rescued kangaroo being transported to the shelter while sedated.
The rescued kangaroo was transported to the shelter. Source: Facebook/Five Freedoms Animal Rescue

“It’s funny how life can change in a moment,” Mr Zabinskas wrote.

“Just hours ago, she was presumed to be at death’s door and after her rescue with little hope for her survival she was about to knock our door down. How wonderful it was to be wrong.”

Calls for government help

This isn’t the first time Mr Zabinskas has rescued kangaroos from a mineshaft and he says there’s thousands of them scattered around the Vaughan area.

“We’re terrified that one day there will be a child that goes down [a shaft] and seriously injure themselves, or worse,” Mr Zabinskas said.

“Year after year, we’ve been calling on the government to address this problem and to have the mineshafts covered over.”

The mother kangaroo having a drink of water from a yellow bowl after she woke up.
The mother was happily drinking water once she woke up after the tranquilliser wore off. Source: Facebook/Five Freedoms Animal Rescue

This rescue was special for Mr Zabinskas as he has come out of a particularly bad bushfire season where more than half a billion animals perished, and the fact she was rescued and released within just a few hours was “completely unheard of”.

“It was quite an amazing and intense one day rescue and release, so it’s as good as it gets,” Mr Zabinskas said.

He said over the past few months, he has never been to areas ravaged by fires and seen as few animals.

Mr Zabinskas expressed his dismay at the state government for not utilising a rescue organisation to help save animals.

“In all those fires, in all those months and all of the officers that have gone out there, we fear there’s been a mass extermination,” he said, saying in all of Victoria he has heard of a single wallaby being rescued from a fire zone and taken to shelter.

A rescued kangaroo was bouncing around the yard, clearly not injured.
After a while the mother was bouncing around outside before being released. Mr Zabinskas hopes this experience will remind people of the dangers of mineshafts. Source: Facebook/Five Freedoms Animal Rescue

Mr Zabinskas was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia this year for his work with wildlife, despite his continual disapproval for the Victorian government’s attitude towards native animals.

He previously spoke to Yahoo News Australia about the Victorian government restarting the commercial kangaroo harvest back in February, while the plight of Australia’s wildlife dominated headlines across the world. He branded the decision as “irresponsible”.

“So with the loss of massive life because of the fires, it was my understanding that the harvest couldn’t go ahead because how do you work out a quota when you don’t know what your population is,” he said.

“We’ve lost hundreds of thousands of kangaroos and they’re not going to get a handle on that for God knows how many months, perhaps even years.”

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